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Management: Hands Off The Mouse & Keys - Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Hands Off The Mouse & Keys

Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Hands Off The Mouse & Keys

This is a true story.

Diane, a thirty-something professional, was teaching her mother Gwen how to check email on her new home computer. As they both gazed at the screen, Diane instructed Gwen to take hold of the mouse and to move it to the right, then double-click the email icon. A few seconds passed with no movement of the pointer. “Move the mouse to the right, mom,” she repeated gently.

“I am!” said Gwen. “Nothing’s happening!”

Diane looked down at her mother’s hand, and slightly less gently (but still very calmly, ‘though it required a bit of effort) said, “Mom, that’s not the mouse. That’s my cell phone.”

Several nights later, her mother had gained independent use of the PC and could check her email without asking for help most of the time, although there were still occasional glitches, as when Diane passed through the living room and saw Gwen holding the mouse tightly against her lower abdomen.

“Mom? What are you doing?”

“I ran out of room on the desk but the pointer wasn’t far enough down the screen, so I had to continue onto my body,” she answered.

It took a few more lessons and a few more strange mistakes before Gwen was confidently typing and printing paperwork, but through her mother’s struggles, Diane insisted on one rule for herself: hands off mouse and keys.

Diane was tempted many times, especially when Gwen found herself lost in her computer’s many menus and accidental keyboard shortcuts, to simply take hold of the mouse or keyboard and reverse her mother’s work in order to get back to a place where Gwen was familiar. Instead, she gritted her teeth, and as sweetly as she could, communicated through patient instruction what Gwen needed to do. It would have been ten times faster simply to show her mother how to do it, but she knew that showing Gwen would never result in Gwen’s independent use, and independence was the point of the Christmas present PC.

Diane is an IT trainer for a small social services agency, and has the same rule in her office. As tempting as it is to gently nudge an executive aside and figure out how a three-thousand line spreadsheet suddenly has no data, she instead talks him or her through the process, often repeating such instructions as “Right-click column CC. No, that was a left click,” and “Double-click that cell. Now try it without moving the mouse between clicks.”

Sometimes her colleagues and superiors get frustrated with her. “Why don’t you just show me how to do it?” they complain. “It would be much faster!”

She answers, “Because then I’d have to show you again someday. I still might, but if we go through it this way, that will happen less frequently.”

Some of Diane’s trainees have difficulty with oral instructions. It’s not an uncommon learning difference, and without modifying her training for these colleagues, she would be banging her head against a wall in trying to help them. For these coworkers, when a help call comes in, she brings her laptop to the teammate’s desk, and demonstrates each instruction on her own laptop, asking the coworker to imitate what she does. Even for these trainees, she sticks to her rule: hands off the mouse and keys.

Her advice to others in office training is the same, no matter what the topic. Whether it’s unjamming the photocopier, grant writing, locking up at the end of the day, or brewing the coffee. Whatever you’re helping someone to learn, let them go through the steps, no matter how frustrated you get.

It will result in better training, and you’ll have great stories to tell during after-work drinks.


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Management: Hands Off The Mouse & Keys - Executive Leadership Articles

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